Chris Veum knew that he was in a place that deserved special treatment when he first drove onto a Carmel Valley site overlooking Los Penasquitos Lagoon with the Pacific Ocean in the near distance.
The site on Carmel Valley Road at the edge of Del Mar had been a restaurant, but Veum, president of AVRP Skyport architects, quickly started sketching out ideas to transform it into an innovative office project for the new headquarters of the Peace Crowell law firm.
What he came up with was a building designed as an office but with touches that gave it a homey feeling, blending the home and work environment in keeping with the growing trend of offices moving more toward a more casual environment.
They include an open kitchen, where people can gather much as they would in someone’s home.
Veum said giving the office building a homey touch “is just kind of a logical step” as an increasing number of people work at home or split their time, working sometimes at home and sometimes at an office.
Blurring That Line
“I think about how we live and work today, it’s blurring that line more and more,” Veum said. “With the pandemic, we’ve learned to work at home.”
At the same time, the building has a very open office design, taking advantage of its scenic surroundings.
With a construction cost of $5.5 million, the 5,800 square foot building is slightly raised from street level, with floor to ceiling glass walls on three sides.
Construction is tentatively set to start by the end of the year, pending permitting, Veum said.
“The best thing about San Diego is the outside. All those glass panels on the west side of the building open so it can be cooled by the ocean breeze,” Veum said. “There’s so much glass there that you see right through to the ocean.”
Shaded terraces also give the building an outdoor feel and provide places for people to mingle.
The building is designed to be net zero, meaning it will provide its own energy with rooftop solar panels.
In cooler weather, the rooftop solar panels heat water, which is circulated beneath the floors to warm the building.
A rooftop garden on the two-story building will absorb much of the rainwater, and the flooring in the parking garage is made of a pervious material to allow rainwater to be absorbed into the ground.
“The idea is you’re going to walk out onto this deck and it’s going to be more like a garden,” Veum said.
Interior floors will be exposed and polished concrete and stairways will be made of finished bamboo.
“We’re using a lot of sustainable materials in the construction,” Veum said.
With the COVID-19 pandemic in mind, the building will have touchless doors and other touchless features.
Glass or copper, which are more resistant to microbes than some other materials, will be used on hardware that people touch, Veum said.
Veum’s design was a hit with Jason Crowell, managing partner of Peace Crowell, LLP.
“This will be the slickest law office in North County and possibly all of San Diego, even if boutique,” Crowell said. “It will take advantage of the views of the ocean, the lagoon and Torrey Pines of course, but it also just sits perfectly in that space, with a very California feel but also incorporate all of the efficiencies we’ve grown to admire about European and British modern office and interior design. It really takes who we are and what we’ve learned practicing in different places around the world.”
Crowell, who opened a London office for the firm about five years ago and lives in London for part of the year, said he wanted the new San Diego offices to have a European flair but also build on the look of the firm’s current Banker’s Hill office that was designed by Lloyd Ruocco in the 1940’s.
That building “embraces a tremendous expression of California modern design,” Crowell said, but the firm has outgrown the space.
“We found working in that kind of space to be really enjoyable for its open, air, conscientious design,” Crowell said.
Veum “totally got it from our first conversation,” Crowell said. “The first set of sketches were spot on.”
Crowell said he didn’t give Veum specific instructions.
“It was really more of a conversation about concepts and philosophical approach, and then from there, he just got it and the design is perfect,” Crowell said. “Obviously, we are particular about functional use and that’s driven some refinement, but the work is fundamentally his vision of those conceptual designs and we are amazed how personal it feels and how much of our local and international experience the design incorporates.”